Many immigrants take the day off to send message

The parking lot and shops at the Grant Avenue Shopping Center in Manassas was nearly empty around lunch time Tuesday as area many legal and illegal immigrants participated in a county-wide work stoppage to protest Prince William proposed crack down on illegal immigrants.

On a typical day, the parking lot of the center, which contains mostly Latino-owned stores, is lined with trucks selling tacos and other Mexican foods. At noon, none of the vendors were there.

The work stoppage, which organizers call “PWC a Day Without Immigrants,” is designed to show the economic impact immigrants have on Prince William County’s economy.

Some stores in the shopping center were open, but others are locked and closed.

A hand-written sign on the door of Jenny’s Hair Salon said “Abierto miercoles” or “Open Wednesday.”

Another hand-written sign on Rosita’s Shop, also written in Spanish, said, “We’re closed, but we will be open tomorrow.”

In Manassas Park, business carried on as usual.

Every store in the shopping center at the corner of Manassas Drive and Va. 28 that caters to Latinos is open along with the popular Salvadorian eatery Guapos and Mexico Lindo, a Hispanic restaurant on Mathis Avenue in Manassas. 

Marco Blacutt, a manager at Manassas Park’s El Mercado Hispano, said they couldn’t afford to close for a day. He said business is down nearly 60 percent due to the resolution passed by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in July that aimed to deny illegal immigrants county services.

“I have had people call me and say, ‘Is immigration (police) there?’” said Blacutt. “For them to call, they must be really scared.”

Brin Staggs, manager at Casa de Empero pawn shop in the same shopping center as El Mercado Hispano, said business has been down around 30 percent since the resolution was proposed. He too wasn’t contemplating closing his doors for the day.

“I cater to other people, but the Latino community is my strong[est] customer,” Staggs said.

 It is the third in a series of actions which included a boycott of non-Hispanic owned businesses between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3 and a march and rally on Sept. 2.

The ideas for the boycott, march and work stoppage came out of a series of three community meetings held in July after Prince Supervisor John T. Stirrup proposed the resolution aimed at denying county services to illegal immigrants.

Mexicans Without Borders is also organizing a car caravan from the Prince William County Stadium Complex beginning at 3 p.m. today followed by a mass gathering at the Sean T. Connaughton Plaza at 5 p.m. the news release stated.